Fontwell, 26/1/20

This became quite a bleak afternoon but in comparison with Boxing Day it was small fry and arrived later than forecast. The small crowd endured stoically. The word hero is greatly overused these days but...

Going: Soft, Good to soft places on the hurdle course which disappeared after minimal rain

Race 1: Paul Humes Memorial Handicap Hurdle, Div I [2m 5.5f]

1: Ruby Yeats     2: Project Mars     3: The Premier Celtic

Winner owned: Heart Of The South Racing, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

The time for this was five seconds quicker than division two and the overly frantic pace made for a strange event, with almost all of the field being urgently ridden along soon after they set out on the final circuit. The first pair spent much of the early race loitering at the back although as neither Ruby Yeats nor Project Mars were hugely fluent at the hurdles, they may have condemned themselves to be there rather than chosen it. In the end Ruby Yeats simply appreciated a relief from bumbling around awkwardly in chases and got all enthusiastic and stuff at the business end of the race. Of those up near the front The Premier Celtic was the only one to really hang on there, just dropping off of the first pair at the final hurdle but getting revenge on fourth placed Jimmy for beating him here in early December. Well, a bit of revenge. Mole Trap looked more of a candidate to pull up at halfway but he noodled on to be a well beaten best of the remainder.

+  Project Mars (2nd): Presumably it was the change of yard and not twenty months off that led to him being backed into favourite. That did not deliver but he ran sufficiently well to think of additional grace being given to get it right.

+  Jimmy (4th): He has mostly run well for the last year and whilst up a bit in the weights, it should not be impossible to defy it in a less competitive race.     ere.
The first four in finishing order. As requested by Ruby Yeats to show just what she was able to get up to when not chasing

Race 2: Paul Humes Memorial Handicap Hurdle, Div II [2m 5.5f]

1: Fu Fu     2: Fenlons Court     3: King Cool

Winner owned: Starting Gate Racing, trained: Robert Walford, ridden: James Bowen

Having gone at a more sedate pace, the line up finished this much more strongly than in the opener, but at one stage it looked as if it would all be irrelevant. That stage was when Fenlons Court attacked after three out and no other horse was able to raise an instant response. Between the final couple of hurdles it was apparent that Fu Fu, who had been in and out of the lead earlier on and dismissed as cooked when several horses passed her, was rallying with some purpose. After the last there was even greater clarity on how far she could take it as Fenlons Court was treading water and Fu Fu has a proper second wind. The rest were not a factor but King Cool, one of five to cross the winning line in a row at the front with a lap remaining, held off Good News, whose was unable to make the race one winning tactics work here.

+  Fenlons Court (1st): Certainly did his part to show that he likes hurdles rather than chases, even if it did not quite work out 100%.

King Cool (3rd): Did nothing specifically wrong here but he has a knack of running like a non-stayer in longer races and a stayer in shorter ones. Supporting him is not totally doomed as he is on the mark that he won from a year ago but there will be some mystifying fails involved.

Hier Encore (6th): He has a good record at Fontwell and was completely forgiven for it not working on Boxing Day. This was not up to snuff for him.    ere.
Fenlons Court (white) knows that Fu Fu is where she is but has no plan to slow her down

Race 3: Best Odds Guaranteed At MansionBet Novices' Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Beaufort West     2: Wheesht     3: Right Hand Of God

Winner owned: Taylor & O'Dwyer, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Jonjo O'Neill jr

The pre-race verdict was that it would look a really bad race if for any reason Beaufort West did not take part but the betting did not reflect that as it assumed that lightly raced horses owned by Million In Mind and JP McManus would be likely to improve on some non-involved runs to date. Due to a very slow pace the field was still well bunched three hurdles out but Beaufort West eventually started to exert himself after the last, where his main danger had been Right Hand Of God, who blundered away the slight chance there. That allowed Million In Mind's Wheesht to edge on into second, but JP's Grand Slam was condemned to remain fourth. It almost seemed as if we did not need to run the actual race to learn that.

+  Wheesht (2nd): Does not yet look like one of her owners' more inspired acquistions but she is going in the right direction since havng a wind op.

Right Hand Of God (3rd): Showed nothing in two bumpers but made a big step forward in this debut over hurdles. Look for a handicap impact somewhere along the way.
Beaufort West is over the last without turning a hair. Right Hand Of God has most of his hair going into rapid rotate mode

Race 4: MansionBet Faller Insurance Handicap Chase [2m 2f]

1: Brother Bennett     2: Chivers     3: Britanio Bello

Winner owned: The Secret Circle, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Page Fuller

Clearly the race of the day, made so by headbanging front running on the part of Britanio Bello. He somehow held on for third despite going too fast and not jumping especially well - again. Chivers was the first to tentatively try and run down the leader but that just set up the race for Brother Bennett. Page Fuller knows well enough to not try and force him forward too soon and when she pulled the trigger he swept through the field quite quickly. At the last it seemed that Chivers may have enough of a cushion, but the mentality that has restricted him to one jumps win cut in and he did not resist Brother Bennett's sort of storming late assault. Sky Full Of Stars took fourth place late on, which was not close enough to snap him out of a string of subdued form and in getting fourth he added a third inadequate display to the record of Bajardo, with the visor not helping this time round.

Chivers (2nd): Got a big thumbs up for his excellent second to Ramore Will but this showed why he has trouble aligning good performances with victories.

Empire: Brother Bennett (1st): It was marvellous. And can be again when the enemy set the race up perfectly for him. Hopefully this will not preclude his traditional spring success.

Race 5: MansionBet Proud To Support British Racing Handicap Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Marlborough Sounds     2: Aiguille Rouge     3: Itsonlyrocknroll

Winner owned: Vitality CBD Partnership, trained: Amy Murphy, ridden: Jack Quinlan

Only five lined up for this but any result was possible and once outsider Aiguille Rouge attracted a bit of support, the prices ranged from 5/2 (Itsonlyrocknroll) to 11/2. Brandon Castle, potentially aided by a drop in grade thanks to handicapper cooperation, made the running at a fairly sensible pace. He and Itsonlyrocknroll controlled the race on the final bend but it was not long before Marlborough Sounds and Aiguille Rouge pushed them aside, Marlborough Sounds was just getting the edge of the battle when he jumped left at the final hurdle but had enough up his sleeve to still win by eight lengths.

+ +  Marlborugh Sounds (1st): Had his form boosted when the horse that beat him last time, West Cork, saw off an odds-on hotpot on Friday. He might get clobbered by the handicapper but with only three hurdle races contested, there could easily be sufficient improvement to cope.

+  Aiguille Rouge (2nd): After some modest recent runs, the first inclination was to blame it on the adoption of hold up tactics. They nearly worked here, but she may need to race more prominently to get back to winning.

x Brandon Castle (4th): Ran better for a long way, yet still ended up with a loss of nearly 28 lengths. It may be that his brain has been frazzled by last seasons frantic front running wins.

Race 6: MansionBet At Fontwell Park Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Chain Smoker     2: Lickpenny Larry     3: Arquebusier

Winner owned: David Leon & James Devine, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

This race unfolded like the first chase with the horse that appeared to have the race won approaching the last succumbing on the run-in, this time in the shadow of the post. Lickpenny Larry was the one that went for home early but it seemed to have paid off until Chain Smoker ignited his enthuiasm two fences out, At that time Arquebusier had a chance of going with Chain Smoker but he found little and was condemned to repeat his 2019 third place in this race.

Chain Smoker (1st): Had not really shown a great deal before today, even after a wind op, and did not look overly agile on his chase debut. He started a well-backed 3/1 shot so the win in a modest race was not unexpected, but he needs to show he can do it twice before getting carried away with support.

x  Lickpenny Larry (2nd): Has a weak record when carrying 11-1 or more (he was on 11-12 for this) and even managed to get outbattled by the infamous rogue Shintori at Plumpton. He is basically the reason for tempering enthusiasm about Chain Smoker.

x  The Brothers (4th): Strated favourite despite being 0/18 in his career before it started. This is another reason for being suspect over Chain Smoker.

Race 7: Southern Cranes And Access Maiden Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Full Back     2: Rookie Trainer     3: Fil D'Ariane

Winner owned: Ashley Head, trained: Gary More, ridden: Joshua Moore

The gathering gloom and misty drizzle made this race effectively invisible to the naked eye (and to any saucily attired binocular). Even watching on the big screen only clearly picked out Annual Invictus' bright pink colours and Premiumaccess' bright yellow (they dead-heated for fifth - could that really be coincidence?). That was a shame as there a few runners who have done some interesting things before today and seeing how the whole thing panned out would be helpful. It can be reported for certain that Full Back is a great old lump designed for chasing and he was clearly not flattered by his decent fifth at Ascot on hurdles debut. Rookie Trainer made a proper race of it, improving for a change of stable, having a wind op and gaining a tongue tie. Fil D'Ariane was fourth in a decent WIncanton race last time, five lengths ahead of Grand Slam (a functional fourth earlier on the card).

+ +  Full Back (1st): Looks the part and ran like it too.

+  Rookie Trainer (2nd): Improved on his past form but with several valid reasons to have done so.
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